Abbie Hoffman
Abbie Hoffman

Abbott (Abbie) Hoffman

1936 - 1989

As a radical, revolutionary, political activist and social clown, if somebody is against something, odds are good Hoffman is against it too. Although his fame is cemented in the '70s, his revolutionary bona fides are established in the '60s.

Hoffman's career as an activist starts modestly, with some civil rights work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By 1966, he leaves the "straight" life behind, begins using drugs, and immerses himself in counterculture politics. With a handful of other top-drawer radicals, he creates the Youth International Party (Yippies), a flamboyant political group with no official membership or leadership. Hoffman's personal specialty is revolution-via-the ridiculous.

It's embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best-Sellers list.

Abbie Hoffman
on his success with Steal This Book

On August 24, '67, he leads a group of activists into the gallery of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In protest of capitalism, the Vietnam War and assorted other crimes of the establishment, they throw fistfuls of dollars (mostly fake) down toward the trading floor, tricking the traders into a pathetic scramble for cash. The NYSE installs barriers in the gallery to prevent such interference in the future. A couple of months later, during the October March on Washington, Hoffman is in charge of a group trying to levitate the Pentagon.

But Hoffman is also a key figure in some of the most important political trials of the century. In 1968, Hoffman is one of the Chicago Seven activists accused of inciting riots at the Democratic National Convention. Later that year, Hoffman is arrested on a desecration charge-for wearing a shirt resembling the U.S. flag.

By the early '70s, Hoffman starts to gain acclaim as a radical journalist and author-but is charged with cocaine possession in '74. Desperate to avoid trial, he has plastic surgery and lives underground as Barry Freed, until surrendering to authorities in 1980. Released in '82, he resumes a life of political activism.

On April 12, 1989, Hoffman is found dead in his apartment. A victim of bipolar disorder, Hoffman's death is ruled a suicide.

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